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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Century Plant, Rattlesnake Master, False Aloe, American Aloe,
American Agave, American Century, Flowering Aloe, Spiked Aloe, Maguey

(Agave Americana)

CAUTION: Identification important. Should not be confused with Rattlesnake Master (ERYNGIUM YUCCAFOLIUM). Also - can produce a STRONG, IRRITATING LATEX which causes DERMATITIS. Long term use can interfere with absorption of fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K. Supplementation of these vitamins per a physician may be needed if this herb is taken. Can have a laxative effect.

CONTAINS: Hormonal and insecticidal constituents.

A New World native of tropical and subtropical arid zones. Often planted in rows to provide a barrier for stock animals. Used in arid land reclamation.

PROPAGATION: By seed in spring and by offsets removed from the parent plants in spring or summer - leave several days to dry off before potting up.
NEEDS: Well-drained soil and full sun. Does not tolerate temperatures below 40° F. Is bothered by mealy bugs and root mealy bugs. Do not overwater during winter or rot may occur. A. americana variegata (a variegated version) does not come true from seed.
HARVEST: As desired. Leaves and roots can be used fresh or dried. (See caution note above regarding skin irritating sap).
PARTS USED: All parts are used: leaves, roots, sap.


Antiseptic, diuretic, laxative, healing, anti-inflammatory (it's efficacy in treating arthritis and rheumatism is not yet proven by scientific investigation).
Acts primarily on the digestive system and lowers fever by inducing perspiration.
Used internally for indigestion, flatulence, constipation, dysentary.
Sap has disinfectant properties also useful in checking foul bacteria in the digestive system.
A disinfectant diuretic formerly used in the treatment of syphilis.
Has been used in the past for pulmonary tuberculosis, liver disease and jaundice.
Used externally for burns and minor injuries. Leaf sap has been applied to skin for burns as well.
A fermented alcoholic drink used by Mexican Indians for nervous conditions.
Soaking agave fiber in water for one day gives a rinse for disinfecting the scalp and for 'falling hair'.
Was used by Southwestern Native Americans to treat the pain and inflammation of arthritis and rheumatism.
A root tea was also used for arthritis.
Among the Aztecs it was used as a dysentary remedy. Enemas using agave leaves were used. They also employed the juice as part of a wound remedy.
Native Americans employed it in cases of dropsy.
A wash of the roots was used formerly for snakebite.
The root was formerly nibbled for severe diarrhea and for worms.
The stiff center of the leaves was boiled with water and a small amount of salt and used to treat jaundice of the liver.
Indian folks healers (curanderos) of Guatemala used it for excessive phlegm, coughs, poor urination, rheumatism and sores.

All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully.

1 Tbsp of plant (or 1/2 tsp powdered) in 1 pint of water taken 3 times daily.
Capsules or tablets = one upto 3 times daily.
Extract = 10 to 30 drops taken 3 times daily.

The sweet tender plant core has been cooked as a vegetable. In Mexico the sap is fermented to make alcoholic drinks (i.e. Pulque and Vino Mescal).
Employed in the distillation of tequila.

Agave species may prove to be a source for steroid synthesis. It is a source of hecogenin which is used in the manufacture of steroid drugs.
It is used in a similar fashion as Agave sisalana (sisal) for fiber which is woven into ropes, twine and mats.
Roots are used in the manufacture of soap. According to Maude Grieve (A Modern Herbal, Dover Publications Inc., N.Y.) the leaves were used in the making of a soap substitute. The juice was expressed and dried in the sun, then combined with wood ash and formed into balls. This resultant soap was said to lather in salt water as well as fresh.
The leaves have also been used to scour pewter.
The inner spongy portion of the decaying leaves has been used as tinder and the fibers spun into thread.
The upturned leaves were used as shingles on Mexican homes.
The German East Africa Co. was responsible for the original research on agave in 1893 after the plants were introduced from Central America to Tanganyika.

©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH